BALTIMORE, MD (January 18, 2022) –– AAA Mid-Atlantic will be weighing in today before the Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR) Committee as legislators hear virtual testimony at 1:00 p.m. for proposed legislation to expand Maryland’s Slow Down, Move Over law.
Senate Bill (SB) 147 – Motor Vehicles – Operation When Approaching Disabled Vehicles is sponsored by Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D, District 18, Montgomery County), who also serves as Vice-Chair of the JPR Committee. SB 147 requires drivers approaching a disabled vehicle displaying hazard warning lights, road flares, or other caution signals, from the rear to make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the vehicle or to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe.
Current state law applies to emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and service vehicles. However, the passage of SB 147 will expand the state’s current Move-Over law, to cover all vehicles displaying hazard lights.
“I am honored to sponsor this life-saving measure on behalf of AAA Mid-Atlantic and Maryland motorists,” said Senator Jeff Waldstreicher. “Tragically, the number of incidents where disabled motorists are injured or killed on the side of the road, or when first responders are struck while serving others, continues to increase.”
Sadly, several motorists tending to disabled vehicles have been killed on the side of the road here, in Maryland. Kennedy Sookal, of Reisterstown, and Stuart Johnson, of Baltimore, were both killed in separate incidents in 2019, as they tried to change a tire on the side of the road.
“Being on the side of the road is dangerous for everyone and we have seen that even those who the law is already intended to protect are not exempt from the perils on the road,” said Ragina C. Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Just a few months ago, AAA contractor, Muhammad Shehzad, was killed on the side of the road in Howard County, after changing the tire of a AAA member. “Adding motorists with disabled vehicles to the law will provide drivers, as well as emergency personnel, who may be aiding them with additional protection when they are on the side of the road,” Ali added.
According to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “using federal crash statistics, transportation data analysis firm Impact Research estimated that 566 people were killed and 14,371 injured each year over 2016-18 in crashes on all types of roads involving a disabled vehicle in which visibility was likely a factor. The annual societal cost of those crashes totaled around $8.8 billion in medical payments, lost wages, and the less easily quantified costs of death or disability.”
“Every year, law enforcement around our state respond to thousands of personal injury crashes and more than 500 fatal motor vehicle crashes,” said Colonel Kevin M. Anderson, Chairman of the Traffic Safety Committee for the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) and Chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police. “By expanding the Move-Over or Slow Down requirements for motorists approaching disabled vehicles, with hazard lights flashing or other visible warning devices, we can add another layer of protection to prevent crashes on our highways.”
Despite every state in the country having some form of Move Over law, motorists routinely indicate that they are either unaware of state laws that require them to slow down and/or move over for emergency vehicles or that they are uncertain which groups or types of vehicles apply. SB 147 simplifies the law, reducing confusion so that caution must be extended to anyone with flashing lights in a stationary vehicle on the roadside.
A recent AAA Mid-Atlantic poll of Maryland drivers conducted last fall indicated a similar lack of understanding or awareness around the state’s Move Over law, with 32% of Maryland drivers polled indicating they were ‘unsure’ or thought there was ‘no’ Move Over law in the state.
Currently, seven states include disabled vehicles in their Move Over laws. They include Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
In AAA Mid-Atlantic’s recent poll of Maryland drivers, 84% of those surveyed indicated they would support Move Over laws to cover motorists with disabled vehicles.
“AAA has been instrumental in the passage of Move Over laws across the country, and here in Maryland, to protect first responders, law enforcement officers, tow truck operators, and service vehicle drivers,” Ali said. “We would also like to see those same protections extended to motorists with disabled vehicles to save lives on our roadways,” she added.
Delegate Anne Healey (D, District 22, Prince George’s County) also sponsored corresponding legislation, House Bill (HB) 105 – Motor Vehicles – Operation When Approaching Disabled Vehicles, at the auto club’s request. “This bill is the logical next step in expanding the life-saving Move Over, Slow Down legislation we have had on the books in Maryland for a while now,” said Delegate Healey. “This law will protect the lives of motorists who get stranded on the side of the road. I am proud to introduce it this year.”
AAA will be testifying in support of HB 105 before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Thursday, January 20.